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Hibbing trio shares songs from new album in KAXE live session

Folk trio MorningBird standing in a street between two buildings. On the left is a man holding a guitar with long hair and beard. In the middle is a woman holding a violin. On the right is a bearded man holding an upright bass.
MorningBird via Facebook
Hibbing folk trio MorningBird includes Rob Wheeler, left, Jill Burkes and Josh Palmi. The band released a debut album "Echoes in the Meadow" in April 2024.

MorningBird (Jill Burkes, Rob Wheeler and Josh Palmi) recently released "Echoes in the Meadow."

GRAND RAPIDS — "When we’re on the road and playing gigs and having adventures on our days off, that’s when I feel like we’re living like the birds and the bees.”

That’s violinist Jill Burkes talking about her band MorningBird, and “Birds and Bees,” the lead single from their debut album Echoes in the Meadow. Burkes, along with guitarist Rob Wheeler and bassist Josh Palmi, stopped by KAXE to play songs from the album. All three share singing and writing duties in the band.

A blue-green painting of a meadow and blue sky, there is a red bird flying. Near the top it says "Echoes in the Meadow" and near the bottom it says "MorningBird".
Marissa Saurer
MorningBird released Echoes in the Meadow on May 10, 2024.

They began their live session with a performance of the single, an upbeat number featuring lyrics yearning for freedom and a great country-rock guitar riff from Wheeler. The song was inspired by Burkes’ mother, who asked the band “to write a toe-tapper."

Burkes grew up playing Finnish and Norwegian folk tunes, many of which are in minor keys and that would translate into the band’s songwriting later on.

Each member comes to MorningBird from a different musical background. Burkes from classical and folk violin, Wheeler from rock and funk, and Palmi from the blues, but the three come together into one cohesive folk-country sound. Each brought a different traditional tune to the album, and Wheeler’s pick of “Keep Your Lamps Trimmed and Burning” was their next performance at KAXE.

“I really like these guys, they’re my friends and I think we mesh well together.”
Rob Wheeler

First recorded in the 1920s by bluesman Blind Willie Johnson, it is a traditional gospel song with call and response chorus. MorningBird’s version is inspired by Jorma Kaukonen who covered the song with Hot Tuna. Wheeler handled lead vocals on this one with Burkes and Palmi providing the response in the chorus.

The trio wrapped up the session with Palmi’s tune “Reefer,” which the bassist joked was “pretty self-explanatory.” With a haunting vibe and paranoid lyrics, the song accurately captures the feeling of a high gone wrong.

On Echoes in the Meadow, everyone contributes, whether it’s songwriting, singing or picking out songs to cover.

“I really like these guys,” Wheeler said. “They’re my friends and I think we mesh well together.”

Folks in Northern Minnesota will have a chance to see MorningBird when they play Festival Rialto at Rapids Brewing Co. on Saturday, June 8.

To hear all three live performances and the complete interview, listen above.

Centerstage Minnesota, Fridays at 2 p.m. and 10 p.m. on KAXE/KBXE, is made possible by the citizens of Minnesota through the Arts & Cultural Heritage Fund. 

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Malachy started his radio career at a college radio station, where he played weird music in the middle of the night to possibly no one. On a good night maybe his parents were listening. Nonetheless, he was hooked on public radio and is still doing it today. He joined Northern Community Radio in 2022, where he gets to share his passion for local music as Producer of Centerstage Minnesota, an all Minnesota music show airing Fridays at 2pm.